Oil prices up in Asia

Crude prices rose in Asian trade on Thursday as the Federal Reserve reaffirmed its commitment to stimulate the US economy through quantitative easing measures and home sales soared, analysts said.

New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for March delivery, was up 27 cents at $87.60 per barrel.

Brent North Sea crude for March rose 15 cents to $98.06.

The Fed’s reiteration Wednesday of its support for the US quantitative easing plan had reassured crude traders, said Victor Shum, senior principal for Purvin and Gertz international energy consultants in Singapore.

“The US Federal Reserve Bank confirmed support for quantitative easing programme through bond purchase and keeping the US dollar weak, which tended to support crude price,” he told AFP.

The “quantitative easing” programme entails putting billions of dollars into the economy through purchases of government bonds to stimulate further growth.

Buoyant US home sales also pushed up oil prices, Shum added.

Sales of new single-family homes in the United States spiked 17.5 percent in December, ending a year that was the worst on record, official data showed.

New-home sales rose to an annual rate of 329,000 from a revised November rate of 280,000, the Commerce Department said.

The jump in oil prices came despite data released by the US Department of Energy (DoE) Wednesday showing an unexpectedly sharp build-up in crude inventories in the world’s biggest oil consumer.

The DoE said crude inventories jumped 4.8 million barrels in the week ending January 21, compared to analyst expectations of 900,000 barrels, according to a poll by Dow Jones Newswires.